Stevens saved Avery Bradley to lock down Kyrie Irving in crunch time

Avery Bradley, in just his second game back from an achilles injury, is already leaving his mark on Celtics wins yet again. In Boston's great win over the Cavaliers, Bradley had a critical presence on the floor in crunch time.

The guard was on a strict minute restirction of 22 or 23 minutes to continue to ease him back into game action. Coach Stevens, understanding the clutch capabilites of Clevland's All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, was wise enough to save Bradley for the final three minutes of the contest:

And boy did this strategy come in handy. When I saw Kyrie Irving with an isolation on the right wing - the same spot where he hit his clutch pull-up three against the Warriors in Game 7 of the Finals and his nearly idential clutch shot against the Wizards this season - I was worried. But then when I saw Avery mathced up with him, I quickly was reminded just how good his defense is.

I mean, just look at this defense Bradley plays on who may be the best ball-handler in the league:


Stevens' smart time management with Bradley proved to be a big factor:

Bradley's ability to contain players on the perimeter has always been his strongest attribute but with him out for so many games, it was easy to forget the impact that he truly has on the court for the Celts. The 26-year-old noted the pride he takes in that part of his game:

It's encouraging for Celtics fans to see Bradley back, healthy, and contibuting to wins with his defense. As good as Marcus Smart is at keeping with opposing guards, having Bradley back will only strengthen Boston's defense (remember the 'IT and D' lineup? Yea well that's what we saw down the stretch).

Props to Bradely on his stellar defense on Irving, and props to Stevens on recognizing the value of saving his minutes for the end of the game.

Follow Erik Johnson on Twitter: @erikjohnson32

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